War Trials – WWII – part two

Hideki Tojo listening to interpreter during his trial

Hideki Tojo listening to interpreter during his trial

The major trials being held in Tokyo were presided by the U.S., Britain, Australia, the Netherlands, France, China and the Philippines and began in May 1946. General MacArthur, as supreme commander of the Allied powers, largely controlled the progress of the trials. They started with 25 defendants, but two passed away during the proceedings and another was evaluated as too mentally deficient to participate.

Hideki Tojo

Hideki Tojo

Hideki Tojo was the most infamous face to symbolize Japanese aggression being that he was the Prime Minister at the time of Pearl Harbor. A 55-count indictment was drafted by the British prosecutor, Arthur Comyns-Carr. Every nation’s prosecutor signed the document listing: 36 counts of ‘crimes against peace’, 16 for murder and 3 counts for ‘other conventional war crimes and crimes against humanity’ for the major persons involved. These proceedings were held at the Japanese War Ministry Building and would last until November 1948. During this time, the prosecution called 400 witnesses and produced 800 affidavits.

Koki Hirota listening to the verdict and sentence

Koki Hirota listening to the verdict and sentence

Tojo took responsibility as premier for anything he or his country had done; others argued that they had operated in self-defense due to the ABCD power’s embargo and military assistance given to China. In Tokyo, all defendants were found guilty. The death sentence was given to: Hideki Tojo; Foreign Minister Koki Hirota; Generals Kenji Doihara, Seishiro Itagaki, Akiro Muto, Hyoturo Kimura and Iwane Matsui – these sentences were carried out three days later. Sixteen others received life in prison. Eight of the judges agreed on all of the sentences. Sir William Webb dissented, Delfin Jaramilla of P.I. thought they were too lenient, H. Bernard of France found fault with the proceedings, B.V.A. Roeling of the Netherlands voted to acquit Hirota and several others. A complete dissent came from Radhabinod Pal of India.

Tomaya Kawakita and his attorney

Tomaya Kawakita and his attorney

Another series of tribunals were held in Yokohama, Japan. These were for lower ranking officers, Shinto priests, medical personnel and farmers in association with the treatment of prisoners. One case involved the ship, Oryoko Maru, upon which 1,300 POWs died in 1944. The secret police, the Kempeitai, were brought to justice along with other spies. The trial of Tomaya Kawakita was moved from Yokohama to Los Angeles at his request being that he was born in the United States. This was a clear case of “be careful what you wish for” – the American court sentenced him to death.

The British prosecuted Japanese along the Malay Peninsula, in Borneo, New Britain, Rangoon and Singapore. In Malay, 35 Kempeitai (secret police) were tried and 29 went to the gallows. The most publicized trial involved those at the “River Kwai” for causing almost 600 deaths of the 2,000 POWs that built the Burma Siam railroad.

Siro Ishii on trial

Siro Ishii on trial

Australia listed 35 separate charges, including cannibalism and mutilation of a dead body. The most famous was Shiro Ishii of Unit 731 for subjecting prisoners to horrendous experiments. These were normally tried in cooperation with British and American officials. One trial held on New Guinea was for a Japanese officer who ate part of an Australian POW. The defense claimed starvation as a reason for his mental demise – he was hanged.

Rabaul - the gallows used

Rabaul – the gallows used

The largest trial of 503 Japanese was held by Australia for cruelty to prisoners on Amoina and 92 were convicted. In Rabaul, New Britain, 1,000 American and British POWs were forced to march 165 miles and only 183 made it the entire route. The Japanese commander executed the survivors. The officer had survived the war – but not the court.

The Netherlands tried an ugly case for Vice Admiral Michiaki Kamada who ordered 1,500 natives of Borneo murdered. Four others were executed for their participation in the awful treatment of 2,000 Dutch prisoners on Flores Island. Another case involved the treatment of 5,000 Indonesian laborers, 500 Allied POWs and 1,000 civilians.

China tried 800 defendants, whereby 500 were convicted and 149 sentenced to death.

The French held the least number of trials and dealt with them as ordinary crimes. Five Japanese were given the death penalty for the murder of American airmen in Indochina. The French were still holding their trials as late as November 1951.

As mentioned previously, the Russian “trials” were held as propaganda against the West. The charges would be dismissed, due to “arrested development.” ( suggesting that the Japanese were hindered in their development since they were not subject to Soviet culture and education.) The Soviets publicly made it clear that they were “on to” Japan and her American friend’s plot against them.

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Farewell Salute –

Charles Hines – Cypress, TX; Major General to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery

Dr. Gilbert Bahn – Moonpark,CA & Syracuse, NY; Captain, U.S. Army Air Corps, WWII Pacific Theater

Teresa Patterson – Costa Mesa, CA; U.S. State Dept., translator WWII

Robert Scott – Kobe, Japan & Los Angeles, CA; Sgt. USMC WWII; recalled for Korea, Purple Heart and Letter of Commendation Medal

Richard Burdick – Dallas, TX; U.S. Army WWII, 65th Infantry Div. ETO, 2 Bronze Stars

Lucius (Bud) Ohs – Batavia, NY; medic, U.S. Navy WWII

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Resources: history.net; WWII magazine; Wikipedia; japanfocus.org; japantimes.co.ip; Time magazine

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 20, 2013, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 44 Comments.

  1. I was surprised to learn how often the POWs were badly mistreated. My dad never talked much about his experiences in the Army. I know he spent some time in Germany. I have a picture of their base camp and another one of him marching as a color guard. Also, I have a small box of medals, but have no clue what they were for.

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    • You’re not alone, but historians, medal on-line sites, forums and associations are out there to help you identify what your father’s medals mean. If you know his unit, you can contact the association. “All-About” sites can be very good as well. Don’t give up – this was your dad and your history.

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  2. Totally fascinating information, gpcox. Tremendous research once again! This was the first time I had heard of Kawakita. Now I need to find out if his sentence was carried out.

    My father served as translator as part of the post-war MIS ATIS and participated in the war crimes trials. It appears the trials he translated for lesser charges than Tojo and the like But he would never say more…even a couple of weeks ago…

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    • I read your tribute to your father and it is well deserved. But, I don’t believe any of the trials should be considered minor – especially if you or a loved one was the recipient of the crime. Thanks for your compliments. Try a more round-about method of questioning your dad.

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  3. Many of those convicted richly deserved it.

    Every conflict brings out the worst in man – every conflict!

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  4. I continue to be a fan. I’ve nominated you for three awards here:
    http://friendlyfairytales.com/2013/07/23/sauce-for-the-goose/
    Hope you have time to visit and collect. 🙂

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    • I thank you very much for your continued reading and support. And, as I do greatly appreciate you nominating me for the awards, I’m afraid I’m going to decline. I mean no disrespect, but being as this is a non-fiction web site, I just don’t feel a page of things about me is appropriate. I realize it is a good way to advertise this site, but I’m going to go it the ol’ fashioned way – just like dear ole dad. Thank you once again for thinking of me and please do not take offense.

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  5. gpcox – I had no idea there were that many trials all over the world. Thank you for sharing your incredible research.

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  6. Reblogged this on Serendipity Chronicles and commented:
    A fascinating look at several of the war crimes prosecutions following World War II. Worth a read if you’re interested in genealogy, if you have family who fought during that era, or are a student of World War II history.

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  7. Wow. Shocking and disturbing the terrible things that had been done. The enemy was heinous. What would our justice system look like now if folks sentenced to death were actually put to death 3 days later? I daresay our prisons might not be overcrowded simply based on the deterrent a swift death penalty would result in.

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  8. Horrendous stories there. I’m amazed that the French held trials as late as 1951. I guess that many of these trials required much research and the search for eye witnesses.

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    • Frankly, I can’t be much more of a help on that one. I checked around and couldn’t find the reason for them taking so long. (So, maybe they were just publicity hogs?!lol – who knows?) Thanks for visiting, Mike.

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  9. The brutality is hard to get one’s head around. The vivesection experiments on downed fighter pilots, the devastation of Chinese cities like Nanking, the comfort women (some Japanese politician just said publicly they were “necessary,” all of it so out of keeping with the Buddhist Japan I so admire.
    Your posts are thought provoking and excellent~

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  10. It’s just so hard to comprehend the depravity of some so-called humans.

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  11. A comment above mentions surprise at one human being can do to another . . . when we humans do not recognize others as other humans, or think of others as inferior (no better than animals), all manner of behavior is rationalized.

    It need not be in times war . . . one can read the news and wonder how we, as a species, say we are so much better than animals.

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  12. My father’s cousin was one of 3,000 Philippine surrender prison camp survivors – 94,000 did not.

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  13. The overwhelming cruelty of man to man comes to light in the face of these trials. I keep thinking we will learn from history and yet, it continues to repeat itself. I always learn a little something new from your posts – whether it is about the unsung bravery of individuals or the horrifying actions of others. Keep up the good work.

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  14. Another great history lesson! Thank you.

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    • Definitely my pleasure, Don. Thank you for reading.

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      • Thanks for taking a look at the story of Sr. Theophane. She died on the Dorish Maru along with dozens of other missionaries. The Japanese soldiers were safe below while the Europeans and Americans remained exposed on deck. When the missionaries were first arrested, the were all accused of espionage. Maybe some of them were coastal watchers.

        I grew up during WWII, so the name Tojo is quite familiar. It’s interesting that the Emperor never faced charges. Queen Elizabeth II, as I recall was not too friendly when he visited many years later.

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  15. Thanks for another great post. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutsuhiro_Watanabe was the Japanese war criminal described so vividly in the book Unbroken. When I was reading it I was there in my mind and I couldn’t believe the things that a human being could do to other human beings. Reading about it makes history real to me.

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  16. gruesome but interesting!

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  17. Each time I read one of your well presented posts I find myself in awe of how crazy and horrible conflict becomes. Each one of those charges represents misery beyond comprehension.

    Like

  1. Pingback: What Happened on May 3rd – Japanese War Crime Trials Begin | IF I ONLY HAD A TIME MACHINE

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